I very rarely come across a life-changing tool or app. I had heard of the pomodoro technique for years before I tried it, which because of it’s simplicity, I had just totally disregarded. Now I use it all day, every day, and sometimes it still shocks me how applying this simple method can drastically improve my productivity.
Through this post, I’d like to introduce you to the technique’s origins and history, why it works, provide some of my own personal use cases and list a few web tools and apps to employ this procedure.
What is the Pomodoro Technique?
The pomodoro technique is a time management method which aims to increase productivity by breaking down work into 25 minutes intervals, separated by breaks.
It was developed during the late ‘80s/early ‘90s (arguable) by Francesco Cirillo when he was a university student. Pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, which is said to have been the shape of his timer when developing the technique.
Frequent breaks can help to increase concentration and mental agility, working in short shifts can allow you to focus and be continually productive. Any given large task can be broken down into smaller ones, which when combined with a reward break can lead to an improved attention span and increased motivation.
The pomodoro technique has got to be one of the simplest time management methods, the only requirement is a timer. The basic principles of the technique are as follows:
- Select a task or project to work on
- Set a 25 minute timer and begin work on the project
- After the 25 minutes are up, take a five minute break
- Repeat and every four sets, take a longer break of 15 minutes
Tasks can be broken down into time based achievable segments, however on a personal note, I find it doesn’t matter if I’m halfway through a task when a break is due – infact this allows me to return to work after the break, knowing exactly where I need to carry on, wasting no time at all.
There are days when there is an unachievable amount to do, I’m sure we’ve all been there. It’s times like this when you consider skipping the breaks to maximise the time you have working, and I often find this just doesn’t help. If you’ve got a huge quantity of tasks, or are working on a variety of projects, a solid four hour shift from 9am – 1pm can be totally overwhelming. Your thoughts may collect all the todo’s you have, causing mental blocks which interrupt your productivity.
I usually start each day planning out the tasks I have and allocating 25 minute chunks of time for them. After each pomodoro, I can cross off the task I have completed, and by the end of the day, it’s a great way to look back and review what I have accomplished. On a day that feels tough, this can be both surprising and rewarding.
While it may seem crazy to take 10 minutes off every hour, you’ll achieve more within these 50 minutes than you otherwise would within the hour. This is especially true over a longer period of several hours. The five minute breaks provide much needed mental breaks and give you time to gather your thoughts and reset.
Use Case Examples
I’d like to share a few of my own personal use cases for the pomodoro techniques and what I get up to in my breaks.
I’m sure everyone will agree a clean and tidy environment is a productive one. If you work remotely (especially from home) use the five minute break to get up, get away from your screen and clean your surroundings. Not only will this help you to concentrate, it’s great to reduce strain your eyes and to move your body.
You may find when working from home, you can’t concentrate with the amount of mess, or you spend too much time tidying and not enough time working. If this sounds familiar, allocating yourself time to work and time to clean works extremely well. When your office is your home and your home is your office, it’s important not to neglect it.
It can be too easy to lose momentum and concentration on a project with notifications and emails constantly popping up. As another example, I like to work solidly and uninterrupted for 25 minutes on a project and catch up on emails, chats and other notifications during my five minute break.
If your team uses message apps such as Slack and HipChat, these feature status settings to let your team know when you’re available or not. Anyone messaging via email can usually wait 25 minutes as it’s not regarded as an instant form of communication.
I find this method this permits me to concentrate on any given task, knowing I have allocated time to reply and get back to people soon.
We often spend eight hours a day seated and in front of a screen, which isn’t ideal for health. Using a pomodoro break to get up and away from your screen can be hugely beneficial, especially if you use the breaks to exercise.
Getting out and getting some fresh air can really help to you relax, process your work and think things through. Our office is in the Eixample district in Barcelona, an area characterised by its strict gridded street network, it’s octagonal shaped blocks and wide tree-lined avenues – it’s beautiful to walk around. Each block is approximately 400-500m around, which takes about five minutes to walk; you can guess what I do. If you’re on a 15 minute break, even better.
If you can’t get out of the office, there are lots of helpful articles available on exercises you can do at your desk:
- Deskercise! 33 Smart Ways to Exercise at Work
- Exercises at Your Desk
- 5 Minute Desk Workout ( Perhaps if you work from home 😀 )
A five minute pomodoro break is also perfect opportunity to go to the toilet or grab a coffee or tea. If you introduce this technique to your office, it’s also a great time to catch up with other employees who may also be on a break, chat about non-work related things to make your break actually feel like a break.
There are countless apps available for every platform there is, we’ve just rounded up a few of our favourites.
This is a browser-based web app with three buttons for Pomodoro, Short Break and Long Break counters. If you work a lot in a browser, the remaining time displayed in the tab is very handy.
Pomodoro Time (OS X)
The Pomodoro Time app is available in the Mac App Store for free. It’s beautifully designed and sits nicely in your Finder bar, so whatever you’re doing, you can always access it.
Pomodoro Keeper (iOS)
For those who don’t sit in front of a computer, there are plenty of pomodoro apps available for mobile devices. The Pomodoro Keeper is beautifully designed, keeps history and provides some great statistics to look back on.
This simplistic Android app is all you need. It’s minimal design is sure not to distract with a simple clock style countdown and timer.
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